President Edgar Lungu says government has initiated discussions with the Democratic Republic of Congo DRC on structured export of about 600,000 metric tonnes of mealie-meal.

And President Lungu says government is also reviewing the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) Act in order to fully address issues that affect the maize industry.

Speaking when he officiated at the 2019 National Harvest Day at Wisdom Mababe farm in Mumbwa of Central Province, Wednesday, President Lungu said government was tired of rhetoric and wanted to unlock the agriculture potential that Zambia has.

“To further accelerate maize production, government has initiated discussions with the Democratic Republic of Congo DRC on structured export of mealie-meal. At a meeting between DRC officials and government on June 27 in Ndola, which also attended by the private sector, a road map was agreed for a structured export to DRC. The discussion I had with the president of the Democratic of Congo revealed to me that Congo is looking to Zambia for about 600, 000 metric tonnes of maize. Export markets also exists in other neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe where His Excellency President Mnangagwa told me that they will require about 700, 000 metric tonnes. It is my hope that by the same practice, we will have structured markets and exports,” President Lungu said.

President Lungu also said that government was also reviewing the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) Act in order to fully address issues of market discretions that affect the maize industry.

“In order to stimulate maize production, government is also reviewing the FRA or Food Reserve Agency Act. Again it’s very critical that the review of the FRA Act is done with full consultation with the stakeholders to ensure that issues of market discretions that affect the maize industry are fully addressed. I also wish to take advantage of this opportunity to inform you that the government through the Ministry of Agriculture will soon embark on analyzing the Food Reserve Agency interventions on the market. Government wants to clearly understand the cost of FRA interventions on the market, the impact of FRA’s intervention on maize production, grain traders, millers and mealie-meal price including issues to do with transportation cost,” President Lungu said.

“Again I want to emphasize that this exercise will be done in close collaboration with all stakeholders. Working with the farmers, grain traders and millers, government’s intention is to transform the maize industry to production levels of more than three million metric tonnes in the farming season of 2019/2020. And we hope to produce more that 3.5 million metric tonnes of maize in the year 2020/2021 season and hopefully more than five million metric tonnes in the year 2021/2022 season.”

He said there was need for pragmatic action to actualize Zambia’s potential to become Africa’s food basket.

“It’s true Zambia has got potential to feed Africa, but for how long are we going to talk about this potential? We need to take pragmatic action to actualize this potential and the time to do that is now. We just have to do it for the good of our country. There is no need for this country to experience hunger because God gave us all that it takes for a country to prosper. My government will not continue doing this rhetoric about Zambia’s potential but instead will try doing it practically to unlock the potential that Zambia has in agriculture. It is not a secret that what has been delaying us to transform our key industry is that farmers are not making profits because of unfavourable producer prices. I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the day when farmers will start receiving good prices for their produce, Zambia will change and will never look back,” President Lungu said.

And President Lungu said the country’s agriculture potential would only be realized when farmers started making decent profits for their produce.

“I am also confident that our country’s great potential in agriculture will only be realized if the farmer is rewarded good prices. As a country we need to ensure that our farmers get the best out of their produce. It is important to ensure that the price covers the cost of production and that the farmer makes a decent profit. I am aware that the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) will be announcing the price before July 25th. I will therefore urge the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure that consultations are made with our stakeholders such as the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) so that together we come up with a price that has got no cost implications in terms of production,” said President Lungu.